sabayon – (French) egg yolks and wine whisked over simmering water until thick and frothy, similar to zabaglioni
sablé – French shortbread
Sachertorte – (German: ‘Sacher cake’) traditional Viennese speciality, rich chocolate cake, topped with a thin layer of apricot jam, and coated in ganache
saffron – the stigma of a particular type of crocus; high priced spice because it’s so labour intensive to harvest. Used to flavour various dishes, eg paella
sage – culinary herb with long grey-green leaves. Often used in British and Italian cooking. It goes particularly well with pork.
salami – Italian term for a cured, highly-spiced sausage. Similar can be found in other cuisines, eg the Spanish chorizo
salapao – Chinese steamed buns
salmon – pink-coloured ‘oily’ fish, can be bought both farmed and wild.
salé – (French) salted or pickled
salmis – classical French preparation where a roasted or sautéed piece of meat is sliced and reheated in sauce, typically used for game birds.
salsa – Italian and Spanish term for sauce
salsify – a root vegetable of the dandelion family, with an oyster-like flavour. It looks similar to a parsnip with its creamy flesh but it has a tough, brown skin
salt – a mineral consisting mainly of sodium chloride and essential for human survival. Used to season dishes and as a preservative.
samosa – (Hindi) Indian snack of deep-fried meat or vegetable patty encased in pastry. Also known as a ‘shingara’ in Bengali or a ‘singoda’ in Urdu.
samphire – a type of sea vegetable which is crispy and tastes of the sea. Of the two types of samphire, marsh and rock, marsh samphire is the only one widely available because it tastes and smells nicer.
sansho – (Japanese) a type of pepper which is usually ground and sprinkled on food as a seasoning
Sangiovese – Italian red grape variety used to make wine. It’s also the base of Chianti.
sardine – a small oily fish named after the island of Sardinia, where they were once caught in abundance. When they reach a certain size they’re called pilchards.
sashimi – (Japanese) sliced raw fish
sauce – a liquid, or semi-liquid, food used in the preparation of or served on other foods
sauerkraut – (German: ‘sour cabbage’) fermented cabbage, very popular in Germany
sausage roll – a savoury snack consisting of sausage meat wrapped in puff pastry
sauté – (French: sauter, ‘to jump’) to cook quickly in a shallow pan in hot fat or oil
Sauvignon Blanc – white grape variety used to make wine. It has a clean, fresh taste but is also known to smell like “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush”.
savarin – yeast cake baked in a ring mould, soaked in rum and served with crème pâtissière and fruit. Also known as ‘rum baba’
scald – to briefly immerse food into boiling water to kill germs or to loosen skins
scald milk – to heat up until just before boiling
scallop – sweet and tasty bivalve shellfish
scampi – Italian for Norway lobsters, also known as langoustine or Dublin Bay prawn. Some British ‘scampi’ is made from reformed minced prawns
score – cooking technique of making parallel cuts on the surface of food
season – use small amounts of salt, pepper, spices, sugar, etc to enhance the flavour of a dish
season equipment – to treat new cooking equipment, eg a wok, with cooking oil to prevent subsequent rusting and sticking
sec – (French) dry, au sec – until dry
Sémillon – white grape variety used to make wine
semolina – milled durum wheat used to made pasta, puddings and couscous
separate – to separate egg yolks from whites
setting point – the temperature at which a mixture containing gelatine starts to thicken and set
sfoglia – a type of hand-made pasta
shallot – a member of the onion family which is smaller, milder and sweeter
Shaoxing wine – Chinese, amber-coloured rice wine used in cooking as well as for drinking
shashlik – term for a kebab made of skewered meat, usually lamb
shichimi togarashi – (Japanese) seven-spice mix
shiitake – Japanese mushroom with an earthy flavour
Shiraz – variety of grape used for making red wine. Popular in Australian viticulture. Also known in France as ‘Syrah’.
short – term used in pastry cooking meaning ‘having a high fat content’, which makes it more difficult to work with although it tastes superior
shred – to slice or tear into long thin strips
Sichuan peppercorns – fragrant Chinese seasoning from a plant unrelated to pepper
sift – to pass one or more dry ingredients through a sieve to remove lumps as well as to combine and aerate ingredients.
simmer – food preparation technique of heating a liquid at just below boiling point
skim – to remove fat or impurities which have risen to the surface of a liquid whilst cooking
skordalia – Greek garlic paste, sometimes with other flavourings added, eg almonds
slake – mix flour into thin paste with a small quantity of water to prevent lumps forming
soba – Japanese buckwheat noodle
soda bread – quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate is used as a leavening agent instead of yeast.
soffritto – Italian for mirepoix: diced vegetables (usually carrot, onion, celery) and sometimes also ham or bacon, used to flavour sauces, stocks and soups. Not to be confused with ‘sofrito’ (below)
sofrito – (Spanish) sauce of garlic, tomatoes, onion and paprika cooked in olive oil. Not to be confused with ‘soffritto’ (above)
soft ball – the term used for when sugar syrup will form a soft ball when dropped into cold water
sorbet – (French) water ice; usually fruit, but other ingredients can be used, eg chocolate or wine
sorrel – culinary herb with a lemony flavour
soufflé – (French: souffle, ‘breath’) sweet or savoury baked pudding made with whipped egg whites
souvlaki – popular fast food in Greece. It’s a kebab, traditionally made with pork meat.
sparassis – a species of edible fungus, in English it’s sometimes called “cauliflower mushroom”
spatchcock – whole poultry or game birds split down the backbone and flattened for grilling
soy sauce – Asian condiment made by fermenting soya beans
spelt – ancient member of the wheat family, can be added to soups and stews or milled to make flour
spice – seeds, stems, leaves of a plant which impart a pungent or aromatic flavour
spinach – bitter leafy vegetable. The older leaves are usually cooked but the baby leaves can be used as salad leaves.
spring greens – early cabbages which are leafy rather than having the heart of later cabbages
spring lamb – young lamb about 3-5 months old at slaughter. It’s tender but lacks the flavour of an older lamb.
spring onion – (scallion, green onion), a very young onion with a mild flavour. It’s useful in salads.
squid – an edible member of the octopus and cuttlefish family. (See also ink.)
squirrel – a type of rodent. In the UK grey squirrels can be obtained from game merchants but red squirrels are a protected species.
Sriracha sauce – Thai condiment made from chilli, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar. Named after a coastal town in Thailand’s Chonburi Province.
star anise – star-shaped, aniseed-flavoured spice commonly used in Chinese cooking, predominant in Chinese five-spice powder
steak – thick boneless cut of meat but the term can also be used for fish, eg salmon steak
steam – to cook food by steam alone, eg in a double boiler or bamboo steamer
steep – to saturate fruit or cakes with syrup or liqueur to moisten and flavour them
Stilton – traditional British cheese, usually with blue-green veins
stock – liquid flavoured by cooking with vegetables or meat bones. Used as a basis for many dishes, eg soups, casseroles and sauces.
stockfish – dried unsalted cod
strain – to separate liquid from solid by using a sieve or colander
strawberry – red berry fruit. The British season runs from late May until early September.
suet – fat taken from around the kidneys of animals, usually beef. Vegetable suet is also commercially available.
sugar – most common type of sweetener, made from sugar cane or sugar beet
sunflower oil – mild-flavoured oil commonly used in cooking and baking
superfood – a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being, eg goji berries, moringa
sumac – Middle-Eastern spice, usually sold as purply-red powder
supreme – fillet of meat taken from poultry or feathered game breast
sushi – Japanese vinegared rice
sweat – cooking technique meaning to cook food, usually vegetables, in oil over a low heat to develop the flavour
swede – (rutabaga, neep) a member of the cabbage family which looks like a large turnip
sweetcorn – (corn on the cobs), vegetable with rows of tightly packed golden kernals formed around a tough inner core
sweet potato – (yam), potato with a red skin and creamy red, or white flesh. They have a sweet, mild, spicy flavour.
Swiss chard – (chard) leafy vegetable similar to spinach but unrelated. Some varieties have colourful stalks and ribs.
Syrah – red grape variety used in wine production. Known by that name in Europe (particularly in France) but also called ‘Shiraz’, eg in Australia.